In Chinese, we have an idiom “男人大丈夫, 流血不流淚” (a grown man will rather be bleeding out than shedding tears) implicating emotions are signs of weakness. Growing up believing that was the definition of strength, I soon learned to “tough it up” and hid my vulnerable side. It seemed not to hurt as much when I held all my sadness and tears in but there was a side effect to the solution. I was building a wall around me yet the same wall I thought was my protection isolated me from connecting with others.
This subject matter first hit me between the eyes when I was in the Missionary Training Center. One day studying Preach My Gospel, I came across the following lesson regarding God:
God is our Heavenly Father. We are His children. He has a body of flesh and bone that is glorified and perfected. He loves us. He weeps with us when we suffer and rejoices when we do what is right. He wants to communicate with us, and we can communicate with Him through sincere prayer.
It shattered all my core belief in bravery and I thought to myself, “Why will a perfect Almighty God cry?” The further I studied vulnerability in the scriptures, the more I found examples of wonderful prophets and even the Savior revealing their true emotions. The Savior wept when he arrived at the grave of his friend, Lazarus (John 11:35). Nephi wrote about his feeling of inadequacy and guilt as he recalled his previous iniquities (2Nephi 4:17-19) and King Benjamin expressed his humility by openly speaking of his infirmities (Mosiah 2:11). What appeared to be weakness in man’s eyes transformed and empowered them to go on with their discourses.
Changing is probably one of the hardest challenges I have ever encountered as I have to constantly work against my natural instinct. Jeremy Bentham once said that mankind was governed by pain and pleasure and our natural inclination was to choose pleasure over pain. To be vulnerable is to open up and subject ourselves to possibility of misunderstanding, disappointment, rejection, hurt, uncertainty, and fear. The emotion is so raw and the feeling of depending on others just makes me feel super antsy. But just like my line in the worldwide broadcast, help is always there when we have faith.
Just when I was about to throw in the towel and crawl back to my comfort zone few days ago, two of the most loving, courageous women in my book inspiringly shared their hardest trials with me encouraging me to go on. So, we trembled, questioned, hugged, and cried together in the office (there wasn’t much I could do with the location when unplanned epiphany occurred). In the midst of chaotic emotions while learning from their examples, I found a tiny shred of courage acknowledging how I really felt.